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Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  494 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
Dubbed “savagely funny” (The New York Times) and “wickedly entertaining” (San Francisco Chronicle), acclaimed travel writer Chuck Thompson embarks on a controversial road trip to prove that both sides might be better off if the South were to secede once and for all.“He’s a travel writer like Anthony Bourdain is a food writer,” writes The Oregonian about Chuck Thompson. In ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 14th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2012)
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Disclaimer: I am an over-educated biracial Yankee agnostic bisexual. I have perhaps the least possible incentive to defend anything like this stereotype of the South. That being said, this book is profoundly terrible, and is an example of the sort of ignorant, self-congratulating, xenophobic arrogance which is the syphilis of modern American politics.

To be fair, nobody should come here expecting to read a nuanced critique of racial and economic tensions between North and South. My best hope was
Dec 23, 2014 Andy rated it did not like it
Shelves: travel
Just terrible. One of worst nonfiction books I've read in hardback in years -- all the wit of an anonymous internet commenter married to the erudition of a suburban teenage straight-edge hardcore band. The prose is so relentlessly crass and moronic it should have been typeset in all caps. Thompson is the sort of writer that uses the term "sheeple" unironically, if that gives you a clue.

The worst part is while I am also a Northern pinko that generally agrees with him on the sorry state of the un
Dec 18, 2012 Connie rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book in November, before the election. I finished it a couple of weeks after Pres. Obama was reelected.

Over the years, there has always been talk coming from Texas and Alaska (specifically) about "seceding" from the United States.

Considering all the hate, discontent, and vitriolic that has been emanating from the southern states during Pres. Obama's first term, it is no surprise that author Chuck Thompson chose to research and write this book.

By the way, the book was publi
Sep 19, 2012 Joe rated it it was ok
Political hate books are terrible even when the author is on "your team." They are all just a different form of terrible even if you agree or enjoy the book, if that makes sense. I picked this book because I thought it would be funny (it was, at times) and because I tend to find much of Southern politics frustrating. Laughing about your frustration might seem enjoyable.

The author does not provide new information, but he he does give anyone who wants to rag on the South plenty of statistics, anec
Sep 08, 2015 Jay rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-studies
As we say in the South: "Boy howdy!" I have really struggled to articulate some cogent "theme" in my review of this two-dimensional book about why "the South" should (in his Pacific Northwest eyes) secede from the rest of the country to form its own nation - as it tried to do in 1860, because this book fails and offends on so many levels. All of the examples of Southern "otherness" (on race, education, football, religion, politics, to name but a few) seemed superfluous, in the final analysis, be ...more
Apr 26, 2015 Brian rated it liked it
What is there to say about this book? It's essentially 250 pages of affirmed and confirmed stereotypes about the South. Ultimately, I thought the title and the premise were sorely ignored--towards the last quarter of the book the author goes back to playing with the notion of Southern secession, but it feels like an afterthought. What this book really is is an examination of how Southerners view themselves, and the answer is with a decidedly uncritical eye (though I would posit that the rest of ...more
David V.
Jun 30, 2012 David V. rated it it was amazing
Received as an ARC from the publisher.
WOOHOO!!!!! and HOLY CRAP!!!!!! I can barely wait until this book is released in August and the s--- hits the fan. What a great time for me to be working in a bookstore! Finally an author who tells it like it is. It would be even funnier if it weren't so true, but I did laugh out loud--often. I've known for years that the South held an awful lot of power in this country, but I never understood how and why. I certainly do now, and I don't like it. Cheers to C
Nov 19, 2014 Lisa rated it liked it
Chuck Thompson's premise is that the South and the rest of the United States are so philosophically and culturally different that it makes us compromising impossible. All concerned would be better off if we simply let them secede. He provides many facts and examples to support his premise, many amusing and others redundant. Only at the very end does he contradict what he has been saying throughout the rest of the book. I thought that this was somewhat disconcerting. Nevertheless, I think he prov ...more
Bruce Reiter
I appreciated the collected information and have a better feeling or understanding of the southern culture from reading the book. The author's style did not appeal to me. As a resident of the mythic Cascadia I felt a lot of the book was "Southern Bashing", reaffirming my Northwestern liberal prejudices. I do not care much for southern culture, having lived in it for several years with the Army. Best quote for me was from Dr. Cobb,"My objection to what you're doing is using the South to wink at a ...more
Paul Pessolano
Aug 27, 2012 Paul Pessolano rated it liked it
“Better Off Without “Em” by Chuck Thompson, published by Simon and Schuster.

Category – Politics/History

This book is controversial, opinionated, and, humorous but serious in some respects. You will love the book if you are a Northerner, Obama backer, Liberal, and a Democrat. You will hate it if you are a Southerner, Anti-Obama, Conservative, and a Republican. Either way I recommend the book.

Chuck Thompson puts forth the proposal that the USA, would be better off if the Southern States would seced
Sep 15, 2012 Wanda rated it really liked it
Absolutely hilarious, extended argument for lobbing off the south and letting them have their own country. This was a book that simultaneously made me laugh out loud and cringe. The author, a wickedly funny and talented wordsmith, is a travel author, whose premise is that the vast cultural and intellectual divide between the south and the north in the U.S. begs for a split into two separate nations. While researching this book, he traveled through the bible belt in the U.S. south, interviewing a ...more
Chris Brown
Nov 23, 2012 Chris Brown rated it it was ok
Somewhat clever but it's too easy to mock evolution-denying southern evangelical Christians who believe Obama is either the anti-Christ or, if you are a moderate, just a Kenyan Muslim. Quick read and kind of a guilty pleasure but I kept feeling, so what? It just confirmed my stereotypes of uneducated, religious southerners. I'd rather read a book about the changing southern demographics about the south, something that would challenge rather than bolster my worst assumptions.
This might be one of the most out there "non-fiction" books I've ever read. Yes, non-fiction is in quotes on purpose. I think it's safe to say the amount of editorializing and extreme hyperbole puts this book in the same category as "reality" TV. However, that doesn't mean I didn't really enjoy reading some parts of it. Thompson's writing reminds me of some of the most interesting and most highly annoying people I knew in college. People that loved to debate and were always saying crazy stuff ju ...more
Aug 22, 2012 Raquel marked it as to-read
I've been saying this all along....!
Scott Lupo
Aug 05, 2013 Scott Lupo rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction to describe this book. Do you like biting humor? Do you like it when an author uses his/her amazing wordsmith skills to produce sarcasm mixed with truth rants? Because, wow, there are some doozies in this book. There are some rants I had to reread several times after laughing out loud. Thompson has a colorful way of getting his point across to the reader. Now, if you are right leaning, conservative, evangelical, or come from the South you may not like this book (unless you have a reall ...more
Jan 29, 2013 Nathaniel rated it liked it
This is another book in the overly-glutted "Gen Xer male writing a book about what they think of the world" category, sort of along the lines of Eric Schlosser. The only thing that keeps me from hating Thompson's writing as much as I hate Schlosser is the fact that Thompson doesn't take himself too seriously and obviously doesn't consider himself to be the Ultimate Authority on the subject that he writes about. He knows he has biases, knows exactly what they are, and is obviously having fun with ...more
Nov 25, 2012 Andrew rated it liked it
Well-researched, yet feels very incomplete. I enjoyed the read, and learned a lot, and was convinced by his central premise, that the north and south are pretty much dragging each other down due to complete incompatibility problems. I live in New Mexico, which for some reason gets zero credit from Thompson for being a pretty non-southern state (in terms of the qualities he describes as being problematically southern) in spite of being on the border.

Unconvincing: the north keeping Texas.

Sep 11, 2012 Joyce rated it it was amazing
I gather that Chuck Thompson is a travel writer, and he's written a book about his travels in the southern US with a distinct political bias, that the south, with it's history of resistance and hyper-religiosity, is holding the country back. They seem to be mired in grievances over their loss of the American Civil War and thus all their political power is directed against the US government. They seem to think they should have been allowed to secede, and he agrees with them.
He lists the Seven Dea
Jan 01, 2013 Zak rated it really liked it
Thompson writes a lot like Rolling Stone's resident lefty bomb-hurler Matt Taibbi. His opinions are front-and-center yet he backs them up with a wealth of fascinating facts. His outrageous and oft-profane humor skewers the objects of his critique, which provides much delight to those of us on his side, but also ample ammunition with which his opponents may easily dismiss him. I was ultimately convinced by "Better Off Without 'Em" that we Americans are hopelessly divided between North and South, ...more
Kevin Keith
Sep 05, 2013 Kevin Keith rated it liked it

Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, by Chuck Thompson, is an engaging and provocative examination of US North/South tensions through the conceit of Thompson's semi-serious proposition that the South ought to be allowed to secede after all, because the North would be "better off without 'em".

To explore this suggestion, Thompson takes off on a road trip through the Confederacy and nearby areas, confronting Southerners of various descriptions and finally convoking a

Although I did not finish this book, I am going to review what I perceive as the author's intentions. He feels that the Northern and Western parts of the United States would be better off if the South (where I happen to live) would secede.

In some respects, Thompson is correct. Many of the more conservative people live in the South. Also, lots of the fundamentalist Christians also live in my part of the country. However, there are many liberal folks around here, just as there are many conservativ
Sep 25, 2012 Nathan rated it it was ok
Despite its best intentions, Thompson's book ended up being precisely the type of "Southern sociology" that scholars should really avoid. Thompson was so caught up in his own self-described Yankee superiority that he simply couldn't see past his project of bashing the South and allowing critical insights from noted Southern scholars such as James Cobb to perhaps give him some much-needed nuance. This is not to say that I disagreed with many of Thompson's findings (after all, I'm a queer, liberal ...more
Brandon Hickey
Sep 29, 2014 Brandon Hickey rated it liked it
While an entertaining read for any northern liberal, the author's argument completely collapses the moment that an intelligent southern historian asks some fairly obvious pointed questions. The author's proposed succession plan would leave Texas as a northern state, simply because it is "too valuable to lose." To even think that Texas would consider remaining as part of a northern USA while its ideological brethren are allowed to create their own union is laughable. Texas would never accept the ...more
Matthew Ciarvella
Apr 08, 2015 Matthew Ciarvella rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
An amusing and witty read that, for all its more decidedly unacademic narrative style, actually does create a reasonable discussion about the cultural divide between North and South. Thompson actually comes across as far more reasonable than the title of his book might suggest and while he doesn't pull punches, he does so with an almost-painful awareness of the geographic region (i.e. Northerner) that he's punching from.

The chapter on football nearly lost me, despite a promise from the author th
Sep 04, 2014 Stewart rated it really liked it
Chuck Thompson’s 2012 book, “Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession,” will likely fill readers with either strong assent or equally strong anger, depending on readers’ political views and region of the U.S. lived in. The book is a mixture of travelogue, interviews with college professors who are experts on the South, talks with other southern residents, extensive research from books and magazine articles on U.S. political history, and a good measure of sarcasm.
It i
Christopher Roth
Nov 06, 2015 Christopher Roth rated it really liked it
This book has been taken to task for its snarkiness and mean-spiritedness, but a bit unfairly, I think. Yes, Thompson uses very incendiary, often hilarious, language to make his point. For example --

-- "It's not easy to look into the twinkling eyes of a seventy-seven-year-old grandmother--a short woman in a pink T-shirt and floppy, white beach hat, the maker of someone's favorite sweet potato pie, a woman who says 'God bless you with an extra dose of sugar'--and tell her that a life spent in the
Jun 11, 2014 Jrobertus rated it really liked it
I enjoyed his other books as well. Thompson spent two years traveling the South and concludes that we should let them secede. He describes the religious fundamentalism, irrationality, mean spiritedness, anti-intellectualism, defeatism for the lost causes, belligerence, and obstructionism of the Southern culture. His conclusion is that these troglodytes are bringing the whole country down, and I agree. These people do not feel they are part of a union, and they hate unions, and use their unfair s ...more
Shawn Ritchie
Dec 31, 2013 Shawn Ritchie rated it liked it
This book veers too hard between being two separate things:

1) A serious review of the practical reasons for, and implications of, a succession of basically "The South" sans Texas from the current United States and
2) An attempted humor book where a jackass Yankee crams as many juvenile (if often pretty fuckin' funny) jokes about the South as possible into the text.

Thompson doesn't mix these two disparate concepts particularly well, resulting in a disjointed read that could've been much better i
Néstor Maíz borrelí
Interesting thesis

It is an interesting what if and I find it puzzling that as he describes in the epilogue, some people basically ran away in the other direction when asked to maybe contribute to the research of the book.

I also agree that even if those who hold enormously stupid beliefs, from racism to gun control may be in the minority they are quite vocal and since they are not confronted publicly by the ones who do not share their views. This serves to paint the rest of the southern populatio
Jul 02, 2014 Kathleen rated it liked it
I was a big fan of To Hellholes and Back, so I thought I'd check this out. Although Thompson is as clever with a pun as ever, this book did not coalesce as well for me. It was a pretty entertaining screed about the ways Southern dysfunction affect all of us, but necessarily much exaggerated for comedic effect--I'd stick with Hellholes unless you have a particular interest in the subject.

Oh, and DEFINITELY buy the Kindle version--I read the paperback and was always worried people would think I wa
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“Country jakes are always whining about the sanctity of states' rights and individual freedoms. Yet when a couple of queers want to get married in Massachusetts, half the South goes apeshit with homemade posters and fire-breathing sermons. And when a few million concerned residents of states thousands of miles away decide they want to stop destroying their landscape in the name of corporate mammon and consumer stupidity, the South sends out its greasy merchants of avarice to cajole, bribe, hector, lie, intimidate, and "lobby" until the seed of their plantation mentality is protected and their gluttonous mouths are once again filled with the jizz of the master caste before whom they kneel like Bourbon Street whores on Navy payday.” 3 likes
“Here’s a secret intel bulletin for all y’all who’ve never left Yoknapatawpha County and imagine the United States is constantly on the precipice of enemy invasion—the only way this country is ever going to surrender its liberty to a foreign power is if it keeps electing corrupt officials who auction it away to multinational corporations and overseas government interests in exactly the fashion that southern star chambers have been doing to their own people throughout their entire dyspeptic history.” 0 likes
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